I’m still fan boying Gillian Flynn and since I’ve read all she’s published I am reading books she has recommended. I found this link of her recommendations and latched onto the novel The War of the Roses by Warren Adler.
I’m about half way through it. The most noticeable thing so far is how much the style of writing has changed since the 1970s. It’s a bit more formal, a bit more complex, definitely more adult but also more chaste. It was a strange time.
I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have watched this if it weren’t for my wife. But then I would have missed a lesson in plotting. Whatever you want to say about the show, you can’t say that the plot isn’t complex.
The first episode set up in one hour so many narrative threads that when I looked back at it I was amazed by what they had done. Then as the show followed those threads they didn’t pull any cheats or deus ex machinas. As a guy who has written fairly straight stories and am now writing a more complex plot, I was blown away and had to applaud the writers.
As a writer who writes about unpleasant people, I’m glad I found Gillian Flynn.
I knew nothing about her really, expect that she was popular and my natural snootiness made me think she would be an easy read after a time when I had worn myself out on higher level stuff. Of course, I was wrong.
She writes challenging, damaged but realistic characters in highly dramatic but somewhat realistic situations but they act realistically. Don’t believe me? I guess you grew up in a healthy family. Congrats.
As a writer, what I’ve from her is to loosen up. I’m an uptight guy and that has always shown in my writing. I like to think of it as Hemingway-esque but I’ve learned over the last few years it’s just a tightness. Flynn was able to show a modern, 21st century was of loosening up to open up the characters to the reader, to let in the light and the color of them to illuminate them. I learned a lot.
So I needed something to read, something easy. Plus I’m a David Fincher fan. Who isn’t? So I decided to read Gone Girl and released Flynn can write. I knew nothing about her. I figure she was one of those pop corn book writers. One of those writers who can crank out mysteries once a year. Nope. She only has three and the depth of character she’s creating with Gone Girl within 15% of this book impressed me (i.e. makes me jealous).
So I downloaded her book Sharp Objects to listen to on my walks…what I hope are my walks. I had my wife take some pictures of me for my Amazon and Facebook pages….and I need to walk…and eat less. So Gillian Flynn will help me through that I hope also.
I’ve recently given up on Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Henry James’ A Turn of the Screw. Look, there are only so many hours in a day. And the older you get, the more valuable those hours become to you.
What am I reading now? Well, the days have been getting darker, both literally and figurately so I needed lighter fair. So I’m reading I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane because I was thinking of writing another of my Jake Gibb stories and I’m also reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe because I never have.
This isn’t my first time reading Faulkner. I’m reading As I Lay Dying now. It’s not one of the hard ones, as if there should be a hard novel. It’s twenties century American English. I’m a twentieth century American English speaker. He was a southern. I am half ‘southern’ and spent a good deal of time ‘down there’. It should come to me easy enough.
But I still need to consult Cliff’s Notes online to ‘get it’. I don’t think that makes me a rube or functionally illiterate. I’ve read older novels from other cultures and enjoyed them. I’ve read dense text books and philosophy and understood them. Maybe Faulkner is just b.s.?
I’ll admit to having a hero worship for Cormac McCarthy. con’t below
Intimidation, if I’m being honest. A decade and a half ago, I read a couple of his books and refused to read any more or to re-read the ones I had for fear of being disappointed in what was to come. I guess it goes along with the rule of never meeting your heroes.
But I finally am now reading All the Pretty Horses. And am a fool for delaying it. The problem for not reading a book when you’re young is that it prohibits you from re-readng a book at different points of your life and comparing it. Books you come to in your twenties are not the same as in your fifties. And the difference reveals to you something about yourself you would have never known otherwise.
But not reading more McCarthy when I was younger, I’ve deprived myself of that.
I few years ago I came across the poets of World War I, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sasson, Rupert Burke, etc. These poets made a war that was obscured by not having a distinctive narrative or the benefit of film into a visceral event that shaped and warped lives. Yes, I knew some of the history of the war and it’s aftermath, but not I couldn’t empathize with the impact it had on the lives of those at the time, until I read the poets. …continued below…
The same occurred when reading the sections of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway that contain the character Septimus Warren Smith and his wife, Rezia. Woolf, no stranger to mental breakdown, herself obvious, shows Smith’s degeneration and his ultimate end, capturing it perfectly. I’m giving away the climax of the book here but it’s been 95 years so get over it.
In this passage, Septimus has had it with the doctors, hearing one approach, he looks for escape, anyway he can.
Septimus could hear her talking to [Doctor} Holmes on the staircase.
“My clear lady, I have come as a friend,” Holmes was saying.
“No. I will not allow you to see my husband,” she said.
He [Septimus] could see her, like a little hen, with her wings spread barring his passage. But Holmes persevered.
“My dear lady, allow me . . .” Holmes said, putting her aside (Holmes was a powerfully built man).
Holmes was coming upstairs. Holmes would burst open the door. Holmes would say “In a funk, eh?” Holmes would get him. But no; not Holmes; not Bradshaw. Getting up rather unsteadily, hopping indeed from foot to foot, he considered Mrs. Filmer’s nice clean bread knife with “Bread” carved on the handle. Ah, but one mustn’t spoil that. The gas fire? But it was too late now. Holmes was coming. Razors he might have got, but Rezia, who always did that sort of thing, had packed them. There remained only the window, the large Bloomsbury-lodging house window, window, the tiresome, the troublesome, and rather melodramatic business of opening the window and throwing himself out. It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia’s (for she was with him). Holmes and Bradshaw like that sort of thing. (He sat on the sill.) But he would wait till the very last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot. Only human beings—what did they want? Coming down the staircase opposite an old man stopped and stared at him. Holmes was at the door. “I’ll give it you!” he cried, and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area railings.